Politico’s Kendra Marr and Kate Nocera review the health care records of the GOP presidential candidates and find that Mitt Romney isn’t the only contender who previously supported parts of the Affordable Care Act. Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman, and Newt Gingrich all flirted with various provisions that ultimately ended up in the health law.
ThinkProgress Health reported on Pawlenty’s past support for “universal coverage” here, and his positive assessment of Massachusetts’ individual mandate, but Cal Ludeman, his commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services, recalls that Pawlenty also advocated for establishing an exchange:
Minnesota’s exchange proposal would have required all employers with more than 10 employees to create a “section 125 plan” so workers could buy cheaper insurance with pre-tax dollars. During a 2007 news conference, Pawlenty said launching such a system would only cost employers about $300.
“Remember how new that idea was, even back then,” said Ludeman. “Everybody was talking about how this was a new Orbitz or Travelocity, where you just go shop. It was never talked about in our conversations as a hard mandated only channel where you could go. But that’s where Massachusetts ended up.”
Pawlenty advanced the non-profit Minnesota Insurance Exchange in 2007, arguing that it could “connect employers and workers with more affordable health coverage options.” “If just two of your employees go out and buy insurance through the exchange, the benefits to the employer on a pre-tax basis — because of their payments to Social Security and otherwise into the 125 plan — more than cover the cost of setting up the plan,” Pawlenty explained.
The exchange originated as a Republican idea and was developed in part by the Heritage Foundation’s Stuart Butler. The measure was eventually adopted by Mitt Romney and later became part of the Democrats’ health reform plan. Under the Affordable Care Act, states that don’t establish their own exchanges by 2014, cede control of the new health market places to the federal government. In 2010, while still governor of Minnesota, Pawlenty rejected the ACA’s “insurance exchanges,” dubbing them a federal takeover.